For six months, Isobel Drummond and her husband sojourned across France with their two teenage daughters, seeking out the country’s best cafés. The couple lingered over coffee and macarons in Paris, Bordeaux, St. Tropez, Marseille, and Nice. Now, at Simply French Cafe, they strive to capture the welcoming ambiance and gourmet foods they enjoyed in their favourite French eateries.
Simply French’s crystal chandeliers and Toulouse-Lautrec posters pop against dark wooden floors and exposed ceiling beams. Customers linger over paninis, tiramisu, and French-style pastries served on delicate pastel china. And in the evenings, a hands-on macaron-making class lets students create their own confections without the difficulty of growing meringues from seed.
Laurence and Michel Gagnon have united two countries in the shadow of Whistler's mountains. Open since 1997, their boutique creperie—which seats only 35 people—draws recipes from France and Switzerland to fill out its menu of light afternoon fare including spinach and strawberry salad, caesar salad with smoked bacon, and escargot.
Part of the blue-and-white venue's appeal is that its meals tend to be interactive. Diners can dunk their own meats and vegetables into a cheese fondue, covering morsels with imported Swiss Emmenthal and Gruyère cheese. Meat fondue enables you to cook your own bites of beef, pork, and prawns, whereas chocolate fondue submerges kiwis and strawberries in Belgian dark chocolate. Then, of course, there are the crepes—savoury variants stuffed with smoked salmon or lobster, vegetarian-friendly ones brimming with mushrooms, and sweet treats that can be flambeed with rum instead of watered-down lighter fluid. These tasty bites may be paired with equally delicious drinks; infused with a shot of rum, the shop's smoothies draw equally from the best qualities of fortifying apertifs and refreshing strawberry punches.
In addition to taking their meals in the cozy dining room, guests often dine within the sunny confines of the shop's outdoor patio. No matter where the food is served, Laurence and Michel stay close to help with the preparation, and during catered events, they craft all the dishes personally in front of guests.
Milo Bigler traces the origins of his passion for food to a childhood spent in the kitchens of his parents’ resort and spa in the tiny Swiss village where he grew up. He went on to pursue a culinary education, eventually winding up in Canada, where he has prepared meals for politicians and royalty. He has opened multiple restaurants, including Calvin’s Café in 1991.
At Calvin’s, Bigler prepares everything from breakfast platters to steak dinners. He crafts sandwiches, makes soups, and tosses salads, each with a tasty little twist thrown in. He enhances his spinach and goat cheese salad with pickled mustard seeds, and polka-dots his open-faced smoked salmon bagel with caper berries. To keep things interesting, he cooks completely different menus at different times of the day, offering unique morning, lunch, afternoon, and dinner menus.
Weaving a tapestry of authentic subcontinental dishes, the chefs at Maurya Indian Cuisine incorporated ingredients from across India’s varied regions. The country’s street food vendors are represented by the toasted potato and pea-cake appetizers; Goa is represented by spicy chicken, lamb, or beef vindaloo; and the tastes of South India make an appearance in the coconut- and poppy seed–flavoured chettinad paste. The restaurant’s base sauce—a mix of five sauces— flavours hearty, shareable portions of lamb, chicken, fish, and goat. The bistro also keeps vegetarians sated with eats that include black lentils slow-cooked overnight and several styles of naan, including one that is equipped with WiFi.
Food arrives with a choice of ambiance. One is the well-lit dining room decked out with long drapes suspended from a high ceiling. The other is served on the eatery’s patio, complete with its own chef who tends to the outdoor tandoor oven. Whether indoors or out, the staff maintains a high standard of professionalism, earning an array of positive press mentions, including Dine Out Vancouver's Best Bite award for service in 2010.
On his CTV News feature, La Belle Patate founder Mathieu Lott revealed he disdains the word "chef" and rather prefers his chosen title: Grease King. The name belies his and founder, as well as native Montrealer, Pascal Cormier's devotion to down-home cooking, a style that embraces the humble simmer of the deep-fryer over the fuss of candlelight, linens, and diamond-encrusted toothpicks. His poutine dishes inject three diner locations with classic Quebec flavour, layering hand-cut, double-cooked french fries with cheese curds and a ladle of vegetarian brown sauce.
At his original venue in Victoria, Mathieu and his staff put on a sensory show for guests at all stages of their poutine prep. Once the potatoes have tumbled in an antique peeler, they are sliced in view of the tables, then cooked twice in bubbling oil. Each of the three locations attests that its never-frozen cheese curds squeak when chewed, a noise that indicates their quality and desire to be heard. The poutine menu covers creative takes on the traditional curds-and-sauce staple, including an egg-laden breakfast poutine and a Meat Lover poutine with beef, bacon, and pepperoni. The kitchen also crafts handmade burgers, Montreal smoked-meat sandwiches, and steamed hot dogs to accompany the potato mainstay.